BANDUNG, Indonesia (AP) — A Muslim militant and convicted bomb maker who was released from prison last year blew himself up at a police station on Indonesia’s main island of Java on Wednesday, killing one officer and injuring 11 people, officials said.
The attacker entered the Astana Anyar police station on a motorcycle and detonated one of two bombs he was carrying as police were queuing for a morning gathering, Bandung City Police Chief Aswin Sipayung said. The other explosives were defused.
A video circulating on social media showed body parts near the damaged police station lobby, which was blanketed in white smoke as people ran from the building.
Food vendor Herdi Hardiansyah said he was preparing meals behind the station when a loud bang startled him.
He saw a police officer, whom he recognized as one of his blood-covered customers, being carried to a hospital by two other officers on a motorcycle. He later learned that the officer had died. Ten others and one civilian were injured.
National Police Chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo told reporters when he visited the station on Wednesday afternoon that the attacker was believed to be a member of the militant organization Jemaah Anshorut Daulah, or JAD, which swore allegiance to and for the Islamic State group was responsible for other deadly suicide bombings in Indonesia.
He said police identified the man as Agus Sujatno, also known by his alias Abu Muslim. He was released from Nusakambangan prison island last year after serving a four-year sentence for terrorism financing and manufacturing explosives used in a 2017 attack on a municipal building also in Bandung, the capital of West Java province.
JAD was classified as a terrorist organization by the US in 2017.
Sujatno was still on the police “red” list of militant convicts after being released from prison for opposing the government’s deradicalization program, Prabowo said.
“He was still difficult to talk to and he tended to avoid the (de-radicalization) process,” Prabowo said.
The de-radicalization program has been used since 2012 as part of the government’s soft approach to rehabilitating militants and weaning them away from radical views so they can better integrate into society after their release. According to the National Counter-Terrorism Agency, of about 2,500 militants arrested between 2000 and 2021, about 1,500 have been released from prisons, and nearly 100 of them have been re-arrested in multiple attacks or for plotting attacks.
The de-radicalization process includes discussion classes with religious figures, prominent scholars and community leaders, as well as financial support to start a business once the militants are released.
Prabowo said he has ordered police task force units and the anti-terrorist unit to investigate the latest attack and find other possible culprits.
West Java Police Chief Suntana, who uses a name, said a paper attached to the perpetrator’s motorcycle read, “The penal code is the law of the infidels, let’s fight the satanic law enforcers.”
Indonesia’s parliament on Tuesday passed a new penal code that, among other things, prohibits insulting the president and state institutions.
“The application of the new penal code can only be seen by terrorists as an impetus to launch their action,” said Adhe Bakti, executive director of the Center for Radicalism and Deradicalization Studies. “Police and places of worship have actually been JAD’s main target from the very beginning.”
He called on the police to closely monitor those on their “red” lists because he said convicted militants who refuse to participate in the deradicalization program were likely to commit acts of terrorism again.
“You have to be continuously offered (to participate in the program), like a seller offering his goods,” he said.
Indonesia has been battling militants since the 2002 bombings on the resort island of Bali 202 people killed, mostly foreign tourists. Attacks on foreigners have largely been replaced in recent years by smaller, less deadly attacks targeting the government, police and anti-terrorist forces, and those who view militants as infidels.
In 2019, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a busy police station in Medan, Indonesia’s third-largest city, injuring at least six people.
In May 2018, two families carried out a series of suicide bombings on churches in the city of Surabaya, killing a dozen people, including two young girls whose parents had implicated them in one of the attacks. Police said the father was the leader of a local affiliate of Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Anshorut Daulah.
Last year, during a Palm Sunday service on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, two suspected JAD attackers blew themselves up in front of a packed Roman Catholic cathedral, killing the two attackers and injuring at least 20 people.
Karmini reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.